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Game Preview: Browns-Bears

Posted Dec 14, 2013

The Cleveland Browns play their final home game of the 2013 regular season Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

The Cleveland Browns end the home portion of the 2013 regular season against the Chicago Bears Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, and with the early weather forecasts calling for snow with lows around 14 and highs of 28, the game could very well be decided on the ground.

During the last four weeks, the Browns have rushed for more than 100 yards in three games, and will be rushing against a Chicago defense that has given up 2,041 yards and 16 touchdowns on 396 carries, an average of 157 yards and 1.23 touchdowns per game.

“I think we’re balanced. I think we’re doing a nice job, the last few weeks, of moving the ball, but like I say every week, we have to continue to stay on schedule,” Browns running back Chris Ogbonnaya said. “We have to continue to do those little things right so we can stay on the field and give our offense the chance to score.

“Anything can happen. I think that it’s an opportunity for us to look at some things, and hopefully, prepare to run the football, but you want to stay balanced. You want to do those things correctly.”

Ogbonnaya could see more time at running back this week, as veteran Willis McGahee suffered a concussion in the Browns’ 27-26, last-minute loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium last Sunday.

“It’s just another week, another week of preparation, and each week, you prepare yourself as though you’re the starter,” Ogbonnaya said. “That’s at any position because you never know what’s going to happen throughout the course of a game, so I’ll be prepared if that’s the case.”

In addition to Ogbonnaya, and Fozzy Whittaker, on Tuesday, the Browns signed running back Edwin Baker, who was previously on the practice squad of the Houston Texans.

“I was always waiting for my moment, waiting for my chance to show what I can do and prove that I can play in this league,” Baker said. “I’ve just been biding my time, that’s all. I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy for the opportunity, and if my number’s called, I’ll be ready.”

In searching for a balance on offense, quarterback Jason Campbell must continue to lead the team down the field, as he did five times against the Patriots. On three of those occasions, Campbell finished the drives with touchdown passes, an 80-yarder to wide receiver Josh Gordon, a 40-yard score to tight end Gary Barnidge, and lastly, a four-yard toss to tight end Jordan Cameron in the fourth quarter of the loss.

“I think that he’s shown that he can do it,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of Campbell’s ability to lead. “Really, it’s a matter of consistency, continuity, some of those things, availability, for us this season that we haven’t necessarily had every week. That’s what we’re striving for at that position. I think our guys, including the coaching staff and Norv, as well as the players, have made great adjustments during the course of the season.”

Protecting the ball will be a key for the Browns against the Bears. Chicago has forced 22 fumbles and recovered eight of those. They have also intercepted 15 passes, two of which defensive back Tim Jennings has returned for touchdowns.

“I think they’re playing solid defense,” Chudzinski said. “I think they’re playing their best defense that they’ve played of the season. They’re great at takeaways. That’s something that traditionally Chicago defenses have done very well.”

While the Browns’ running backs prepare to face an aggressive, ball-hawking defense, their defenders have to contend with a dual-threat back in Matt Forte on the heels of surrendering 153 yards receiving to Patriots running back Shane Vereen last week.

Forte has rushed for 1,073 yards and seven touchdowns on 234 attempts and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Out of the backfield, Forte has been on the receiving end of 65 passes, third-most on the team, and turned those receptions into 518 yards and two scores.

“They’re different types of backs,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said of Forte and Vereen. “Matt Forte is probably the premiere screen-catcher in the game, meaning behind the line of scrimmage and probably, the best contact runner in the game.

“It’s hard to knock him down. They’re different types of backs in the league, whether one’s a scat back, which Vereen is, versus Matt Forte being a more balanced, all-around runner that’s hard to get on the ground because of the low center of gravity. It presents to us a different challenge, and we’re well aware of what his specialty is as far as the screen game.”